Andrew Simonet (Artists U Founder and Director) founded Artists U in Philadelphia in 2006. He is currently writing fiction and producing a documentary about the community-based anti-poverty work of Mauricio Miller. Andrew was, from 1993 to 2013, a founding co-director and choreographer of Philadelphia’s Headlong Dance Theater, along with his collaborators Amy Smith and David Brick. Headlong created collaborative dance theater in Philadelphia, and toured nationally. Andrew’s projects included CELL, a performance journey for one audience member at a time guided by your cell phone, and This Town is a Mystery, performances by four Philadelphia households in their homes, followed by a potluck dinner. Headlong’s work was funded by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, The Creative Capital Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Rockefeller Foundation MAP Fund, The Japan Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts. Headlong’s work was produced by The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Dance Theater Workshop (NYC), P.S. 122 (NYC), Central Park Summerstage, The Jade Festival (Tokyo), The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art. With Headlong, Andrew helped found Dance Theater Camp, annual festival of workshops and collaboration for professional artists that is entirely artist-run and free for all participants, and the Headlong Performance Institute, a school for experimental performance with full college credit. Andrew created and ran the Dance Program at the Lawrenceville School, a private high school in New Jersey, from 1995 to 2005. Andrew lives in West Philadelphia with his wife Elizabeth and their sons Jesse Tiger and Nico Wolf.
Makoto Hirano (Philadelphia facilitator) is an award-winning Philadelphia-based choreographer, writer, and performer. His original solo and ensemble dance-theatre works have been presented nationally by venues and festivals including Yale University, Kelly-Strayhorn Theatre (Pittsburgh), National Asian American Theater Festival, and Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. As a successful freelance performer-collaborator, Hirano has worked on critically acclaimed projects as The Happiness Lecture (Bill Irwin / Philadelphia Theatre Co.), Love Unpunished and PAY UP (Pig Iron Theatre Company), Wandering Alice (Nichole Canuso Dance Company), Still Unknown (Subcircle), WHaLE OPTICS (Thaddeus Phillips/Lucidity Suitcase Intercontinental), and is a founding company-member of Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (Punchkapow; Zombie Defense Consultations). A former U.S. Marine, Makoto earned his BFA in Dance at Temple University.
Michaela Pilar Brown (South Carolina facilitator) is an image and object maker, a multidisciplinary artist using photography, installation and performance. Born in Maine and raised in Denver, Colorado. she studied sculpture and art history at Howard University, Always been a maker of things, she cut her teeth in the halls of a museum where her mother worked as a security guard. She has been immersed in the culture of objects, their making and interpretation, her entire life. Her full time studio practice explores the body through the prisms of age, gender, race, sexuality and history. She considers memory, myth, ritual, desire and the spaces the body occupies within these vignettes. The narratives move between past, present and surreal projections of the future, sometimes occupying these spaces simultaneously. a new Venture, Mike Brown Contemporary, a mobile exhibition and project space specializing in bringing contemporary art and arts related programming to under-served communities launched this Fall.
Anna Drozdowski (Philadelphia Facilitator) has worked with Artists U since 2006, a critical part of her undertakings in cultural production, organizational development and realizing creative ideas—most often in dance. Anna’s leadership, management and facilitation with small businesses and non-profits includes planning and implementation projects such as: consulting with Wilmington Works, a VT Downtown Program, leading the adaptive re-use of Neighborhood House into a theater and rehearsal studios at Christ Church--home to the cultural community in a sacred & historic space; planning alongside artists in skills and one-on-one workshops through Artists U; launching the Headlong HPI college semester in experimental performance in partnership with Bryn Mawr College, as well as presenting contemporary music and dance through Thirdbird. She remains curious about like-minds in far-flung places who are interested in the physical and collective body, and operates a retreat and planning homestead in Vermont (ask!). Prior to her ten years in Philadelphia, Anna taught anthropology in Mexico and conducted research at the Royal Danish Ballet as a Fulbright Fellow. Her work has been supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Chicago Seminar on Dance and Performance, Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship at the American Dance Festival, CEC, PA Humanities Council, and Philadelphia Cultural Fund. Publications include: Philly Weekly, The Bournonville Daily, Dance Advance, Philadelphia Dance Projects, where she was guest curator and many pieces through co-founding the journal Thinking Dance. Anna holds a M.A. from New York University and delights in dancing tango (badly) and grocery shopping (slowly).
Kate Watson-Wallace (Philadelphia facilitator) is a choreographer and visual artist and co-director, with Jaamil Kosoko, of Anonymous Bodies Collective. Kate creates site-based installation in our everyday spaces. Works include HOUSE, a performance for 15 audience members in an abandoned row home, CAR, an audience for 4 audience members who sit inside a moving vehicle, STORE, a performance installation inside an abandoned mega-store, Everywhere, a participatory on-line dance experience, and contest, and a flash mob for 100 community members at the Kimmel Center’s International Festival of the Arts. She has received numerous awards for her choreography, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and grants from the Rocekefeller Map Fund, the Doris Duke Charitable Trusts, the Pew Trusts’ Dance Advance program, The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and The Independence Foundation. She has choreographed music videos for Black Dice and Animal Collective. Recent commissions include new works for Ballet X and Meredith Rainey/Carbon Dance Theater, and commercial commissions for Hotel Monoco/Kimpton Hotels and RedBull Art-of-the-Can.The company has shown work at venues nationally, including: The Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, Joyce SoHo, Dance Theater Workshop, Dance Place, ODC Dance, Velocity Dance, Movement Research at Judson Church, and Kelly Strayhorn Theater. More information go to katewawa.com.
Ashley Minner is a community based visual artist from Baltimore, Maryland. She holds a BFA in General Fine Art, an MA and an MFA in Community Art, which she earned at Maryland Institute College of Art. A member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, she has been active in the Baltimore Lumbee community for many years, and regularly visits communities throughout the U.S South and Latin America as well. Ashley works with several local and regional arts for social justice organizations including Alternate ROOTS. She coordinates Artists U Baltimore, a grassroots planning and professional development program run by and for artists, for the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance. She is currently a PhD in American Studies student at University of Maryland College Park, where she is studying vernacular art as resistance in related communities of the U.S. South and Global South. Ashley was a 2016 Innovative Cultural Advocacy Fellow with the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) in NY, NY. She is most inspired by the beauty of everyday people.
Rodney Lee Rogers (South Carolina Facilitator) Working in multiple disciplines of dramatic form over the past 24 years, writer/actor/filmmaker Rodney Lee Rogers recently received the SC Arts Commission’s Playwriting Fellowship for 2010 and won a SC Film Commission grant for his short film Downturn. His plays and one-acts include HOGS, The Tragedian, Killing Chickens, Fairgrounds, What Comes Around, Tell, Cowboys, and A Waffle House Christmas. His plays have been produced in New York City, Seattle, Charlotte, and Charleston. His feature film Steaming Milk won runner-up Best Actor and Best Director awards at the 1997 Seattle International Film Festival and was chosen as a “Best of the Fest” of both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He has been on the “Ones to Watch” list for Moviemaker andFilmmaker magazines. Theatre directing credits include Tell, Jesus Hopped the “A” Train, What Comes Around, HOGS, and The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Acting credits for the stage include The Pillowman, The Lonesome West, Cloud Tectonics, Underneath the Lintel, Eurydice, and The Tragedian. On television he has appeared on One Tree Hill, Medicine Ball, and Army Wives. He was voted Best Actor by Charleston City Paper for 2009 and 2010. Co-founders of PURE Theatre, he and his wife, artistic director Sharon Graci, live in Charleston with their five children.